Lessons in Rappelling

Back in high school, I went on a youth group trip to West Virginia. We camped at the New River Gorge, a beautiful national park in the southern part of the state. The trip was full of outdoor adventures and team-building activities, including rock-climbing. I was super pumped to climb some real rocks, as opposed to the climbing wall at the local gym. But I also knew doing so meant I would have to rappel off the cliff once I reached the topand that terrified me.

Still I climbed that mountain, and as soon as we got to the top, there was no turning back. I had to rappel. I remember shaking with nerves. “Who wants to go first?” our guide asked. The next thing I knew my hand was high in the air, volunteering me to go down the mountainside before anyone else. The guide checked my helmet, and hooked my harness up to the ropes. I backed up to the edge of that cliff, slowly walking one step further and further until my heels extended out past the rock. I glanced down to the ground a few stories below me. My heart felt like it was pumping out of my chest.  The guide counted down: three, two, one. I pushed back from the the rock with all my might. I jumped off the cliff, screaming with a combination of sheer terror and delight. I was doing it. I was free. I faced my fear and conquered that mountain.

You know what happened next? I climbed back up that mountain and made the vertical descent a second time. Then a third. Rappelling was my new favorite activity, and I wanted to feel the rush in my soul again and again. Something that had seemed so scary was no longer a big deal at all.

Life is a lot like rappelling. We’re asked to face the unknown every single day. We’re asked to take leaps of faith, to jump into things that feel frightening and unsafe. We can turn around and try to precariously climb back down the way we came, or we can rappel and trust in the protection and promises He provides.

As a writer, God is giving me ample opportunity to rappel. He keeps nudging me to take a risk by sharing my words more publicly, but I’d so much rather avoid it. I am standing on the cliff, allowing myself to plateau. To stay stuck. Doing so feels much more comfortable and safe than braving the mystery of what is in front of me.

That’s why I’ve kept my blog fairly private. I’ve shared with my close friends and family. But put these words out there for the world to see? That’s vulnerable. That’s scary. Outside of my church, I have hesitated to tell people what I’m doing. Colleagues may think I’m weird, and future employers may pass me up because of what I write on this site. A good guy could decide not to date or pursue me because my words scared him off. Even family and friends may disagree with what I write. This blog can create conflict. So I’ve let most of my posts go quietly into the ether.

It’s not just conflict that I worry about when I consider making the leap into more exposed and committed writing. It’s the thought that my words don’t really matter.

What do I have to say that hasn’t already been said?

Does the world really need another blogger or another memoir?

How can I even begin to make a difference?

I’m not good enough. Why even bother?

The lies are frequent and strong. They can come into my mind at any time, trying to cut me down and prevent my voice from being heard. The lies want to destroy me.

God has been speaking to me a lot this week through various people in my life. Every day I’ve been offered a new glimpse of His grace and mercy. Over the weekend, I took a writing workshop with author/speaker/blogger/all-around-rock-star Hannah Brencher, and much of our time together focused on breaking fear and combating lies. The lies will set up camp in your mind, she said.

“Any time you want to change or make progress or push forward to make change in your life, you are going to realize there is a camp full of liars hanging out in your brain to try to prevent you from moving forward. Evacuate the camp.”

Hannah is absolutely right. We all have lies that dominate our internal monologues. Lies about our worth, our capabilities, our approval, our security. Without continual reminders of truth, the lies can spin out of control and become our default. We have to recognize the thoughts that are lies and then tell them to get the hell out.

Because the truth is that God’s spirit dwells within us. And he gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control. Shout-out to my girl Samantha for sharing that message from 2 Timothy with me. In this life we are not meant to fear. We can move forward, we can proclaim his name, and we can rappel off whatever cliff we’re standing on and know that we are safe.

He is inviting me to risk my comfort by being more public with my words and my faith. I believe He’s given me the gifts of writing and encouraging; He’s entrusted me with the ability to speak. I have the opportunity to share my unique story and really be a witness to His unending grace. All I have to do is step off the mountaintop and let go.

I do not need to be perfect. My words don’t need to be perfect (and I know they won’t be). There’s beauty in that. Writing connects me to humanity. Writing allows me to reach people I have never met and potentially help someone who might otherwise feel lost and alone. I get to tell my story and the way God is working in my life. I am able to make Him known. How amazing that a God so big and so powerful bestows on us the privilege of sharing His name with the world.

I think I’m ready to rappel now. To step back off the cliff and to trust Him as my always secure helmet and harness. Yes, I think I can do this. Okay, Jesus, let’s go.